Raised in suburban Maryland, Colin Winterbottom studied economics and social policy at college and got a job at a D.C. think tank researching the economic effects of proposed health-care reform in the Clinton era. Yet he was drawn to the buildings he walked among each day and pursued an interest in photographing them, especially when they were covered with the strangely alluring mesh of scaffolding for renovation. The temporary platforms allowed him, with permission, to climb and see up close ornamental stonework, giving a new dimension to the destinations tourists would flock to and D.C. workers would see every day.
After a couple of successful gallery exhibits, he was hired by firms to document their restorations at such icons as the Capitol Building and the National Archives.
When an earthquake shook the city Aug. 23, 2011, Winterbottom was ready to shoot the major repair and restoration work at two of the city’s most beloved sites — the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral. The process began with inspections that resembled careful mountain climbing before scaffolding was built for the work on the structures.
Blending a fine-arts eye with the need to document, Winterbottom created his first museum show for the National Building Museum from his thousands of images. “Scaling Washington: Photographs by Colin Winterbottom” features about 90 of his works from both sites, along with artifacts, fallen stone and part of the scaffold and scrim used at the Monument. We asked him to talk about a few the works. His comments have been edited for brevity. […]